Bullying of SAS and LE doctors commonplace

  • Date: 10 January 2020

NEARLY a third of SAS (specialty and associate specialist) and a fourth of LE (locally employed) doctors have experienced bullying, undermining or harassment at work by colleagues or patients and their families in the last year.

These are key findings from a GMC survey of around 6,400 SAS and LE doctors conducted in May/June 2019.

SAS and LE doctors account for one in six of all UK doctors who are not GPs, consultants or in training roles. Fifty-four per cent of the survey respondents were male and 58 per cent said they were black and minority ethnic (BME), with 70 per cent gaining their primary medical qualification outside the UK.

Among the most common types of undermining behaviour reported in the survey were rudeness and incivility, and belittling and humiliation. Around one in six respondents reported suffering threatening or insulting comments or behaviour, and in bullying related to protected characteristics the most commonly-cited factor was race.

A quarter of SAS doctors and nearly a third of LE doctors reported feeling burnt out because of their work.

Charlie Massey, the GMC’s Chief Executive, said: "Doctors in SAS and LE roles are a hugely diverse group, and for many it is a positive career choice. It is unacceptable that they, or anyone, should have to experience this type of behaviour. That many of these doctors, who are so crucial to UK healthcare, are being treated this way is shocking. It must change.

He added: "Poor working relationships and a lack of support in pressured environments impacts on doctors’ health and wellbeing as well as on patient care.

"SAS and LE doctors may be more isolated, have less support, and may miss out on opportunities available to doctors in traditional training roles.

"We know from the recent Fair to refer? report, by Roger Kline and Dr Doyin Atewologun, that poor support and isolation are factors in the disproportionate referrals of black and minority ethic (BME) doctors to the GMC for fitness to practise concerns. Nearly two-thirds of SAS and LE doctors are from BME backgrounds."

Dr John Holden, head of medical division at MDDUS, said: "These latest figures make concerning reading, and are unfortunately a continuation of the trend reported last year in the GMC’s watershed report on mental health and wellbeing in the medical profession.

“Even without a benchmark against the wider NHS population, the numbers of SAS and LE doctors reporting to this survey being bullied, undermined or harassed at work is clearly unacceptable.

"The SAS and LE doctors support vital services across the NHS and are a much-valued and integral professional group, with additional and important responsibilities on top of their day-to-day roles. MDDUS has recognised this and offers this group CPD-accredited training that’s tailored to their professional experience and needs.

"MDDUS will work with GMC and other agencies to explore the findings in more detail and consider remedies."

This page was correct at the time of publication. Any guidance is intended as general guidance for members only. If you are a member and need specific advice relating to your own circumstances, please contact one of our advisers.

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